Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

Davie Campbell sat on the wooden veranda of his lakeside lodge and let a mouthful of twenty year old Islay single malt warm his throat. The whiskey had been left in the dresser by his father, who believed firmly in a glass of good whiskey before bedtime. He had enough Scots blood in him to appreciate the peaty taste, but he knew it had no special properties other than that.

It had nothing to do with his contentment. Nor had the beautiful view over the crystal clear lake on a clear moonlit night, though that was something he appreciated as much as he appreciated the taste of the whiskey.

The reason why he was a happy man was the woman who stepped out of the lodge and came to sit next to him. She had a cup of hot chocolate in her hands and she sipped it while she enjoyed the view and the song of a nocturnal bird in the trees nearby.

Quite out of the blue she sighed happily. Davie put down his empty glass and reached his arm around her waist. He kissed her and the taste of chocolate mingled with the taste of whiskey in his own mouth.

“I love you, Mrs Campbell,” he told her.

“I love you, my Lord,” she answered him.

“Less of that,” he told her in a teasing voice. “You’re already expecting twins because of that kind of talk.”

Brenda blushed endearingly, then smiled widely. Davie pressed his free hand against her stomach through her dress. She put her hand over his.

“They’re both fine,” he confirmed. “And so am I… although every so often I get a little dizzy when I realise I’m actually going to be a father next year.”

“You are pleased about that, aren’t you?” Brenda asked anxiously. “I know we planned… I hoped… but I thought you would want to wait...”

“What for? We have a home, and financial security. What is there to wait for?”

“The end of the honeymoon, maybe?” Brenda suggested. “Everyone is going to tease us back on Earth.”

“Everyone is going to be thrilled, just as your family is. My mum is going to be walking on air. Well… at least until somebody reminds her that this makes her a granny. As for my dad…”

He thought of his father. He would be proud, of course. He had always been proud of everything he and his brother did. But in all honesty neither of them had ever had a close relationship with their father. When they were children he had always been there if they needed him. But they so rarely did. He and Chris were always closer to each other than anyone else. And later, of course, The Doctor filled the role of father to them in so many ways. Their real father was often edged out. It was a cause of friction between them all. It wasn’t until they were both adults that he and his twin really came to know their father properly and began to close the rift between them.

“I won’t let that happen,” he told himself. “I’m going to be a better father to my children.”

But that wasn’t right, either. His father didn’t do anything wrong. If he wanted a role model for fatherhood he didn’t need to look anywhere else. The fault, if there was one, lay with him and his brother. They were too impatient, always wanting to run before they could walk, and they didn’t want to listen to the steady, patient man who was always there for them whether they wanted him to be or not.

“I’ll always be there for them,” he promised. “Even if they think they don’t need me.”

“You won’t be,” Brenda answered him in a gentle, yet slightly chiding voice. “And I won’t hold you to that promise. Davie… you won’t be content to stay at home and build solar energy projects in the workshop. Not with a universe out there to explore and cars to race.”

“I can do all of that in an afternoon and be home for tea,” he said. “I’m a Time Lord. I can be a father and a racing driver, and a champion of justice in the universe at the same time. I won’t let you down, Brenda. Or them.”

“I believe you,” she told him. “I really do. We’re going to be fine, Davie. All of us.”

“Yes, we are,” he said. Then he sighed again and remembered that even Time Lords needed to live in the present moment. The future would present its problems soon enough. Right now he was happy.

“Oh, look!” Brenda exclaimed suddenly. Davie followed her gaze into the starlit sky. There was a spectacular meteor shower. He was surprised. He didn’t think there was one expected in this hemisphere for another few months. Then he told himself to stop thinking like a scientist. It was a meteor shower and it was beautiful. He was watching it with the woman he loved. That was all that mattered.

Even when they heard a loud bang as if one of the meteorites had crashed in the forest behind the lodge he didn’t let it worry him.

“It hasn’t caused a fire,” he said. “If the piece was big enough to hard land rather than burning up in the atmosphere it probably buried itself in the topsoil. I might see if the TARDIS can pick up traces of non-indigenous minerals tomorrow. It might be fun to try to find it. But nothing to worry about, otherwise.”

“Meteorite hunting in the forest, sounds good to me,” Brenda told him. “Shall we go to bed, now, though?”

“I think so,” Davie replied. He held her hand as they walked back into the lodge. They were still on their honeymoon, of course. Bedtime was a time to savour as much as any other time of their blissful days.

Davie woke earlier than Brenda in the morning. He always did. His body needed less ordinary sleep than hers. He lay for a long time, watching her beside him, listening to her soft breathing and the quiet beat of her heart. But he was too impatient to lie still for long. He rose from the bed and dressed quickly before stepping out into the already warm summer morning. The lake reflected the blue of the sky except where it reflected a perfect mirror image of the Mountain of the Gods towering above them all.

There was a boat on the lake. Davie recognised it as the one Brenda’s father used regularly to measure the water quality – a job that had become more important since the volcanic eruption that had turned the lake to a poisonous acid.

He watched idly for a while. When Brenda came to join him, dressed in a demure ankle length skirt and buttoned up blouse with a shawl over her shoulders as befitted a married woman of Tibora, he took her hand.

“I can’t quite work out who that is in the boat with him,” Davie said.

“It’s my little brother, Philip, of course,” Brenda replied. “Are you ready? We said we’d have breakfast with my family this morning.”

“I’m ready if you are,” Davie answered. “But…”

He looked across the lake again. The figure in the boat with Mr Freeman was, indeed, a boy aged about twelve.


“Brenda, you don’t have a little brother.”

“Of course, I do,” she replied. “Silly. Who do you think was the chief pageboy at our wedding? Come on. If we walk around we can meet them at the jetty.”

He didn’t say anything else. He held his wife’s hand as they walked around the lakeside. She talked cheerfully and didn’t notice his silence. When they reached the jetty near her family’s substantial log-built home she waved and ran ahead. The boy jumped out of the boat and ran to her. She hugged him joyfully and turned with him towards the house. Davie waited and walked with Mr Freeman.

“Is everything all right, sir?” he asked. “With your family…”

“Yes, of course,” Mr Freeman answered. “Are you and Brenda…”

“Certainly,” Davie assured him. “Though… you know we’re planning to return to Earth next week. And I’m not sure when we’ll next have time to visit. I have a lot of work to do… and we still have to finish off the apartment. And Brenda… She shouldn’t make too many TARDIS trips now that…”

“I understand that,” her father told him. “We’ll miss her, of course. But she is your wife now. Her place is at your side. It is as it should be. Besides, we still have our son at home. He is as much a joy to my wife and I as our daughter is.”

“Of course, he is,” Davie said. What else could he say. But he was still very puzzled.

Brenda didn’t have a brother. She was an only child. Who was Philip and where did he come from?

Or was he going mad? Was it possible that he had somehow blanked the boy from his memory while everything else about Brenda’s family remained?

At the house he was greeted by Brenda’s mother who invited him to the breakfast table and bid him eat. Plying him with food had always been her own peculiar way of communicating with him. At first it was because he was one of the Lords of Time whom her people regarded as living gods. Now it was because he was her son in law. Either way, he found himself eating far more than his usual daily calorific intake when he was in her home. Fortunately his active lifestyle tended to burn it off just as quickly.

The boy sat next to him and ate the same foods as he did in the same order, as if he was copying him exactly. Davie realised there was an element of hero worship going on there. And it had nothing to do with him being a Time Lord. It was about him being an older brother figure in the boy’s life. Sukie had been much the same until she turned thirteen and began to display teenage independence from everyone in the family.

But it still didn’t make sense. Brenda didn’t HAVE a brother. He had known her long enough to be sure of that fact.

Brenda didn’t eat very much. She had been hungry until she sat down at the table, but the sight of the cooked breakfast made her queasy. She ate some lightly buttered toast and drank tea while her mother assured her that symptoms like that would pass in a little while.

“Oh, but I am forgetting,” Mrs Freeman added. “You are bearing the child of a Time Lord. It will be much longer…”

“Morning sickness usually dispels by the middle of the fifth month,” Davie said. “At least it did for Rose and Jackie. Brenda will be fine. There are plenty of people back home ready and willing to help her.”

Mrs Freeman was satisfied by that. She poured more coffee for her Time Lord son in law. He sat back in his chair and glanced around the room. It was exactly as he remembered it except that there were a few different family photos on the wall. There were some new ones of Philip at various stages of his life, and group photos that had an extra person in them.

He looked at the large photograph that took pride of place over the mantle. It was a group picture from their Alliance, with the two immediate families in it. His own mother and father, Chris and Sukie stood to the left of the bride and groom and Brenda’s mother and father were on the right. In the picture he remembered posing for that was everybody. But in this version Philip stood with his mother and father, grinning proudly.

“What is wrong with me?” he asked himself. “Why can’t I remember this boy? He obviously knows me.”

Philip was asking him a question. He had to repeat it twice.

“Can I come and visit Brenda on Earth in the winter holidays?”

“Well… I suppose so,” Davie answered. “If your parents don’t mind. Yes, why not?”

It was the only possible answer to the question. The boy’s delighted smile was strangely satisfying. Davie felt glad he had pleased him, even though he still didn’t remember any kind of relationship with him. He was starting to wish he could. Philip seemed a pleasant child. Brenda was clearly fond of him, and the idea of having a younger brother by marriage was a nice one.

But the fact that he couldn’t remember him was disturbing and it made him want to cut the visit to the Freeman family short. He wanted to get to the TARDIS and examine himself under the portable MRi scanner in the medical room. He had more or less concluded that he had some kind of selective memory loss caused by a brain injury of some kind. The huge consequences of such an injury were starting to pile up in his mind – giving up racing because he couldn’t trust his reflexes at high speed – maybe even having to give up TARDIS travel for the same reason – loss of memory affecting his solar energy project and other inventions he worked on in his workshop. He could see his world crumbling around him, starting with this peculiar aberration.

He was distracted from his worries by a knock at the kitchen door. Philip jumped up from the table and ran to open it. A slender girl dressed in jeans and t-shirt asked if he was ready. Philip answered in the affirmative, grabbed two apples from a bowl of fruit and ran off. Mrs Freeman called out reminding him to be back in time for supper and smiled indulgently.

“There’s no keeping them near the house in this summer weather. They’re running wild in the forest and on the lake, all of them.”

“I can’t keep up with them all,” Davie said. “Who’s child is that?”

“That’s Jake Favia’s daughter, Lizzie,” Mrs Freeman answered. “She’s the only girl in a house full of boys. That’s why she’s such a little tomboy. I expect she’ll grow out of it in a few years, though.”

Davie said nothing. He remembered Jake Favia, the Freeman family’s nearest neighbour. He had three sons, the youngest a strapping seventeen year old.

He was certain that Jake and his wife didn’t have a daughter before this day.

“I am going nuts,” he told himself.

He really did want to get back to the TARDIS quickly. But they were meant to be spending the day with Brenda’s family and there was no way he could get out of that without upsetting his wife. After all, they were going back to Earth soon and she wanted to spend time with her mother. He did his best not to show that he was worried. Even so, when they were walking back to the lodge after supper, a setting sun’s rays warming their faces, Brenda casually mentioned that he seemed tense.

“It’s nothing to worry about,” he answered. “Seeing your family, especially your brother… got me thinking about the future again…”

“You ARE going to be a good father, Davie,” Brenda assured him. “I know… we’re both still young. Some people might think we should have waited. But I feel as if I’ve already waited forever. I’m happy. And I hope you are, too.”

“Yes, I am. Definitely. Very happy. But I think… I need to do something in the TARDIS when we get in. I won’t be long. You make some cocoa and open up that packet of your mum’s home made cake and we’ll have a nice quiet evening, just the two of us…”

The TARDIS was parked in the kitchen, disguised as a utility room door that would, in reality, open out into the forest behind the lodge. He stepped through into his console room.

There was, of course, dimensional transference as he crossed the threshold. He was aware of that every time he entered the TARDIS. The physical sensation was like the pull in the stomach when a roller coaster tips over the first summit and hurtles down. It wasn’t something he thought about very much.

But as he stood in the console room this time he felt another sensation. He felt as if a fog had been lifted from his mind and he was thinking clearly for the first time all day.

And he knew for certain there was nothing wrong with his brain.

It was the world out there that was wrong.

He didn’t go to the medical room. Instead he opened a different door. Brenda was not the only one who had been surprised when Davie had most of the photographs at their Alliance taken by a camera that used film and had to be processed afterwards. Of course, it was quicker and easier to use a digital camera that could instantly produce high quality copies of everything. But, for his wedding, he wanted to use film – a real, tangible thing that, once developed, was immutable. And as a bonus, he had enjoyed developing the negatives and making prints to give to all his friends and family. The pictures in the Freeman house were among the first fruits of his effort. There were more in the lodge. He and Brenda had spent a happy evening fixing pictures into albums to bring back to Earth as presents for everyone there.

He quickly found a full set of the prints. Among them was the picture of himself and Brenda standing with their respective families.

It was exactly as he remembered the scene. On his side was his mother and father, his brother and sister. On Brenda’s side was just her mother and father, proud of their daughter.

No brother. No Philip.

Brenda didn’t have a brother.

He found the negative and looked at it carefully. He was right. In the original picture, fixed forever on celluloid, immutable and definite, there was no boy standing with Mr and Mrs Freeman. They didn’t have a son.


He turned to see Brenda standing at the door. She was crying. He put away the negatives and prints and stepped towards her.

“Davie… what’s happening?” she asked between sobs as he enfolded her in his arms. “Philip… he isn’t real. I don’t have a brother.”

“When did you realise that?” Davie asked her. “Was it when you came into the TARDIS?”

“Yes. I came to tell you that the cocoa was ready. And… as soon as I stepped inside… my mind… Davie…”

She couldn’t speak. He didn’t press her to do so. He took her by the hand out of the TARDIS. They sat in the kitchen drinking cocoa and eating cake. Brenda stopped crying and dried her eyes and managed to talk to him, now.

“Out here… it feels real again. Philip feels real. But in the TARDIS, I knew the truth.”

“You know which is the truth?” Davie asked her. “You’re sure?”

“It’s strange,” she said. “I actually have two sets of memories of my life, like two different paths side by side. If I think along one path, I remember being an only child, growing up… more or less happy. There was the problem I had when I was a teenager, of course. The one The Doctor helped me with. But apart from that I was happy. And I was loved. I didn’t mind not having brothers or sisters. I was part of a nice family. I lived in a beautiful place. And I had ambitions. I wanted to be a nurse or a nanny, looking after children. Then I met you… and everything changed completely, and became even better.”

Davie nodded. That was the way he remembered it, too.

“But if I take the other path… I remember Philip being born when I was a little girl. And I loved him from the start. It’s WHY I wanted a job with babies. I had such lovely memories of when he was a tiny baby. I remember there was a time… when I was starting to have those problems… when I felt a little jealous of Philip. When I went to school on Earth, I felt I was being sent away so that he could have all the attention from my parents. I hated him for a while. But it wasn’t really me. It was the entity in my mind. And when I was free of it, I realised I really did love Philip and I couldn’t wait to get home and see him again. And I remember you getting on with him so well. He looked up to you, not just because you’re a Time Lord, but because you were like a big brother to him. He was thrilled to be our page boy at the Alliance….”

Davie didn’t say anything for a long while. He held his wife’s hand and thought carefully about both versions of her memories.

“But you are sure that the first version is the truth?”

“I didn’t until I went into the TARDIS. But now I do know. And… that’s what feels so awful. Because I DO love Philip and I have so many lovely memories of him. And I want them to be real, too.”

“I don’t have any memories of him at all. He wasn’t real until today. But… he IS real. We’re neither of us hallucinating. It is far more complicated than that. What about that little girl… Lizzie. Do you remember her on the first path?”

“No.” Brenda was emphatic. “No. Jake Favia only had sons. They’ve been our friends for years. There was even a time when my mother thought… Danny Favia is the same age as me and… you know… But I never really thought of him as anything but a friend. And… no, they never had a daughter. Neither did…”

She went quiet, but Davie could feel her thoughts. She was thinking of other families who lived around the lakeside. In one of her memories they had no younger child in the family. In the other memory there was a child of about eleven or twelve, either a boy or a girl.

“Mr and Mrs Gabin,” she said. “They never had any children at all. Mrs Gabin had three stillborn babies. They came to terms with it. Mrs Gabin runs a travelling library and loves meeting other people’s children, teaching them to enjoy books. They accepted that being parents themselves wasn’t to be.” She sighed deeply. “In the other memory, they have a little girl called Marcia. She’s a bit spoilt, because both her parents adore her so much and they give her anything she wants. She has golden ringlets and always wears brand new dresses. She’d never join in the kind of rough games that Lizzie plays with Philip. I don’t think her mother would let her. She’s very protective…”

Davie nodded. Both versions were detailed and complete. There was nothing that jarred in either account, nothing that could expose a deception.

“I never saw Philip before today. He didn’t exist. But he does now. So… something happened that changed reality for you all…”

“But not for you.”

“It didn’t change inside the TARDIS. I’m symbiotically connected to it. Or it could be that my Time Lord mind is different to a Tiboran mind. Somehow I wasn’t affected, but I fully believe every single person in this townland was. Every family had their reality altered and children like Philip became a part of their lives.”

“How? And… what happened…” Brenda frowned as she tried to make sense of it all. Then her eyes widened and her mouth opened in an ‘o’ of understanding. “Davie… the meteor shower last night… could that have had something to do with it?”

“Yes, I think it might. But I’m not sure how. There are so many unanswered questions here. So many puzzles.”

“You’re going to find the answers, aren’t you?” Brenda smiled wryly. “You are. I know you are. You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t. You’re going to find out why this happened.”


“Can you find out… without making it go away? Can you leave this reality where… where I’ve got a brother I adore and my parents have a son, and Mr and Mrs Gabin have a little girl who makes them so happy…”

“It depends what it’s all about. If this is some kind of trick… if it’s going to end up with broken hearted people mourning a child that never should have existed…”

“Please, Davie…”

“I can’t do anything tonight. It’s too late. So keep your precious memories for a little while longer. In fact, I wish... I should like to share them, if I can.”

He held her hand and brought her to the sofa in the drawing room where they sat close together. He put his hands around her face and drew her into a long, loving kiss. As he did so, he reached into her mind and touched that strand of memories where Philip was a part of her life. He lingered on them, especially when he came into her life and began to get to know her brother. He enjoyed her memories of him teaching her brother to play multi-dimensional chess or running and playing by the lakeside with him while she sat watching their games. Those were the memories he didn’t have, and he was enjoying them second hand, through her.

When they went to bed, after they had made love with the passion of two people who had been married for only twelve weeks, yet, Davie lay quietly for a long time, thinking about those memories, treasuring them for himself. But he was also thinking about what Brenda had asked of him. He understood why. He didn’t want to lose something that precious, either. And he certainly didn’t want to hurt people like Mr and Mrs Gabin.

“I’ll do my best,” he whispered and cleared his mind ready to sleep quietly at his wife’s side.

They both woke early. Davie made Brenda eat a light breakfast before the two of them set off out in the cool clear morning. They took a path into the forest where the shadows were long and the smell of dew on leaves was heady. It was a walk they had taken before. But this time they didn’t talk very much. Brenda didn’t want to talk and Davie was too busy looking at the hand held device with which he was hoping to trace the meteorite that landed the night before last.

“I think I’ve got something,” he said. “It’s not a mineral, though. Not even a metal. It’s more like an unknown polymer.”

“You mean plastic?” Brenda asked. “Then it’s not unknown, is it? Plastic has to be made by somebody. It’s known to them.”

“It’s not known to my TARDIS databanks. So that’s pretty much unknown,” Davie replied. “It’s this way, I think.”

They struck off the main path for several minutes before emerging into a clearing. The alien object was easy to spot where it had flattened the grass.

“Not a meteorite,” Davie noted. He bent and picked up one of the scattered fragments. It was a pentagonal shape and made of a hard, semi-transparent polymer. He picked up another piece. He looked at the edges. They had clearly fitted together once, but the bond between the sections had dissolved.

He counted the sections and did the geometry in his head. When assembled, the pieces would have made a ball about three foot in diameter, constructed in much the same way a football was, out of pentagonal sections.

“It was a container for something,” he concluded. “But what?” The question was rhetorical. He didn’t expect Brenda to have any answers. He had none himself. He gathered up the fragments and brought them with him as they turned back towards the Lodge.

Davie went straight to the TARDIS to begin a complete analysis of the fragments. Brenda wouldn’t go inside at first. She sat in the kitchen watching him at the console through the open door. She didn’t want to have her memories challenged again. Outside the TARDIS she could concentrate on the version of her family life that she preferred - the one with her brother in it.

She had no doubt that he was her brother. Every instinct she had told her he was, even though the circumstances of his existence were so strange.

If anything happened to change those circumstances, to make him not exist any more, she would grieve as if he was dead.

Worse, it would be as if Davie, in his pursuit of explanations, had killed him. She knew she would be able to forgive him. She loved him too much not to. But if he took Philip away from her, it might just change their marriage in terrible ways.

“Brenda, come with me,” Davie said, standing on the threshold and holding out his hand to her.

“I’m not sure I want to,” she answered. “If it means…”

“Trust me, sweetheart,” he told her. “It’s all going to be all right. But I think you should know what this is all about, after all.”

She trusted him. Of course, she did. She took his hand and let him take her into the TARDIS. The door closed behind her and he went to the console to initiate the dematerialisation.

“That polymer is unique. So unique the TARDIS database couldn’t identify it. But it did identify the structure it was made into. And it also identified a ship just leaving your solar system. We’re going to catch up with it before it enters hyperspace.”

“What sort of ship?”

“According to the TARDIS, a really incredible, very improbable, utterly amazing ship,” Davie answered. He said nothing more until they materialised briefly on the outer edge of the Tiboran solar system, and even then all he did was point out that the ship they were looking at was made of the same polymer, and formed into the same shape – but the football was four miles in diameter and the outer hull a metre thick.

“Who builds ships like that?” Brenda asked. “It’s not even aerodynamic.”

Davie laughed softly and called that a case of the pot calling the kettle. A rectangular box, after all, was hardly aerodynamic. But the TARDIS was the fastest form of transport in the galaxy. He carefully scanned the ship and then chose a place to materialise.

“Let’s go and meet some very special people,” he said to Brenda, taking her hand again as he reached for the door release.

The arrival of the TARDIS had caused some concern. They were met by a dozen androids with faces moulded from more of that semi-transparent polymer. Davie held out his hands in a gesture of friendship.

“We mean you no harm,” he said. “We come from the planet you visited two nights ago. It is necessary for us to hear your side of the story. Will you please show us your historical records.”

One of the androids stepped forward and bowed to them. The others stood aside as they were escorted to a small cubicle with a video screen fixed to the wall. There was a comfortable sofa there and they were brought refreshments.

“Synthesised coffee,” Davie commented, tasting the drink. “But it’s ok. Try some.”

Brenda tried some as the video screen flickered to life. She soon put down the cup, though, and she couldn’t even think of eating the snacks as the saddest story she had ever heard unfolded in front of her.

The planet of Uanh in the Gamma quadrant had been technologically advanced almost as long as Gallifrey in the Kasterborous sector. The people there had developed a way to alter reality for themselves. If they suffered some great tragedy like an earthquake or tsumami resulting in great loss of life, they could retrospectively alter events so that they never happened. If a war broke out between factions, it would be altered retrospectively so that the bloodshed was averted. As a result they were a happy, stable, peaceful world. But manipulating reality was dangerous. And when they tried to use the technique to avoid being pulled into the Great Time War that destroyed so many other civilisations…

Brenda felt Davie tense at mention of the Time War. He was only too aware of what had happened to his ancestral homeworld as a result of that galactic wide conflict.

The Time War introduced too many variables into Reality. The Uanh’s accidentally erased almost their whole population from existence. By some fantastic quirk that nobody could fully explain, the only survivors were the children. A million young people from babies to fourteen were alive, orphaned, lost and alone on an empty planet.

Brenda suppressed a sob and gripped Davie’s hand. He said nothing. He had guessed much of what was coming next.

The Uanh race had space ships manned entirely by androids. These survived because they were space borne and were not caught up in the collapse of reality. The androids carefully transmatted the children aboard the ships, placing them in suspended animation. They brought with them the reality devices that had been the doom of Uanh and travelled the galaxy in search of peaceful worlds inhabited by humanoids who would give a Uanh orphan a good home.

“Well… that’s good,” Brenda said. “It’s… It’s wonderful. But… that means… Philip and Lizzie… Marcia Gabin… They’re some of those orphans?”

“Not any more,” Davie answered her. “The fragments we found in the forest… they’re the remains of the reality device. It came down in the meteor shower, soft landing in a secluded spot. Then it opened out and did its stuff while we were asleep. Reality was altered in every detail to accommodate the children in the lives of the lakeside families. Right down to decorating a bedroom for them, even altering our wedding photos. It’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. But dangerous, too. I think if the Time Lords were still around, they’d have something to say about it.”

“You mean the old Time Lords,” Brenda reminded him. “The ancient ones. But you’re the greatest Time Lord who lives… at least now that The Doctor is really retired. And all you can say is ‘brilliant.’”

“It IS brilliant. Altering reality is insanely dangerous. It shouldn’t be done at all. But if it’s going to be done, then this is such a fantastic reason to do it. Come on. Let’s get back home.”

He stood and turned to the waiting androids. He bowed to them and thanked them for their hospitality.

“Just one thing,” he said. “Don’t try this on a planet called Earth… you might know it as Sol Three – in the Milky Way galaxy. The population there is too diverse, between the indigenous humans and all the other species that have settled and interbred with them. There’s no telling what sort of effect this could have on a population of that sort. It’s a shame, since there are plenty of Earth Humans who would gladly give a Uanh child a home. But it really would be better if you avoided it. On the other hand, there are four populated planets in the Adano-Ambrado system you might try. And the Venturan home worlds. They’re both fantastic people.”

“Your advice is noted,” said the android. “Our databanks will be updated to include this important information. Thank you.”

“No,” Brenda said in a choked voice. “Thank you.”

They took a very short time to return to Tibora. When they did, Brenda gave a happy shout and ran out of the lodge. Davie followed more slowly and stood on the veranda to watch as she hugged her little brother. He had come to spend the day with them, and Davie couldn’t think of a single reason why not.